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Prime Ministers don’t need to be virtuous The office's 300-year history proves that the best leaders are often lazy charlatans

Boris with his Easter bunnies (Photo by Dave Benett/Getty Images)

Boris with his Easter bunnies (Photo by Dave Benett/Getty Images)


April 5, 2021   7 mins

It was an enormously significant moment in our national story, but nobody quite knows how, when or where it happened. There was no ceremony, no grand entrance, no cheering crowd. There was only a curt line in the morning papers. “We are inform’d that a Commission is preparing, appointing Mr Walpole first Lord Commissioner of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer.” And so it was that, at some point on 3 April 1721, Sir Robert Walpole became George I’s First Lord of the Treasury, the first Prime Minister in our history.

At the time, few people could have predicted where Walpole’s appointment would lead. Yet three centuries later, 52 men and two women have followed in his footsteps: charmers and charlatans, moralists and mountebanks, pragmatists and prophets. Today, as Boris Johnson ascends the staircase at 10 Downing Street, their portraits gaze down at him. The calculating stare of William Pitt the Younger; the grim glower of William Gladstone; the bulldog features of Winston Churchill; the icy blue eyes of Margaret Thatcher. A handful of great names, and a host of forgotten ones: the Earl of Bute, Viscount Goderich, the Earl of Derby. Outside the academy, who now recalls Arthur Balfour, Andrew Bonar Law or Sir Alec Douglas-Home? Who still cares about Harold Wilson? Who, realistically, will remember Gordon Brown?

Today, when the premiership seems an indelible feature of the British constitution, it is easy to forget how messily it began. Kings and queens had relied on chief ministers for centuries, and at first there was no sign that Walpole would be any different. Like many later prime ministers, he took the reins at a moment of intense uncertainty. The new Hanoverian dynasty was haunted by the spectre of a French-backed Jacobite rebellion, while the nation’s financial stability was threatened by the fallout from the South Sea Bubble. Europe and the economy: nothing changes.

Since Walpole was the first Prime Minister, and served for almost 21 years, why isn’t he better remembered? One banal reason, I suppose, is that it was such a long time ago. To people not very interested in history, Walpole’s Britain seems impossibly distant. Our first premier was born in 1676, when his oldest neighbours could still remember the last days of Elizabeth I. He lived at a time when Europe’s major ideological division pitted Protestants and Catholics, and when people moved around London in carriages and sedan chairs.

And even much of his own country was a mystery to him. As Anthony Seldon writes in his new history of the British premiership, Walpole never visited Manchester or Bristol, let alone Wales or Scotland. To travel from London to his Norfolk house, Houghton Hall, took at least two days on largely unpaved roads. As MP for King’s Lynn he never faced serious opposition and had little reason to fear the electorate. The only person he really needed to care about was the king — and George could barely speak English. When Walpole visited the palace to discuss affairs of state, they talked in French, and sometimes even in Latin.

Yet is Walpole really so remote? Despite his calculating intelligence and financial know-how, he cuts an endearingly earthy, flesh-and-blood figure. Another prime ministerial biographer, the journalist Andrew Gimson, notes that Walpole played the part of the country squire to perfection, ostentatiously opening his gamekeeper’s letters before turning to his political paperwork. His mistress, Molly Skerrett, was fully 25 years his junior. Perhaps above all, he was famously, flagrantly corrupt. In his own words, he was “no saint, no spartan, no reformer”. Remind you of anyone?

For those of us who enjoy prime ministerial history, it’s a glorious coincidence that the 300th anniversary of Walpole’s appointment comes with another roistering Old Etonian installed in Number 10. For Gimson, the parallels with Boris Johnson suggest that “we still live in an 18th-century country, a mixture of elegant civilisation and extreme rudeness; earthy, passionate, drunken, reckless, and certainly not in thrall to Victorian values”. Seldon even imagines Walpole and Johnson at a candlelit Downing Street dinner, the two men swapping anecdotes about the frustrations of power, the ghastliness of the French and the pleasures of fine wines, women and money.

All this hints at the fundamental continuity of prime ministerial history. Everything changes, yet the job remains largely the same. The nature of the economy, the structure of international relations, the expectations of the voters, the management of colleagues, the day-to-day business of government, the very warp and weft of political life have been utterly transformed since Walpole’s day. But human nature hasn’t changed. Nor have the arts of making friends and influencing people, of stitching up enemies and rivals, of playing to an audience, of making sure you’re in the right place at the right time. It’s easy to imagine Boris Johnson crashing around the political salons of eighteenth century London, his wig askew over his blond mop, his buttons bursting from all that roast beef. Would he have risen to the top back then? Why not?

What are the lessons from the last 300 years? Perhaps the most obvious, as Walpole and Johnson would be delighted to agree, is that few successful Prime Minsters have been paragons of virtue. There’s always Gladstone, of course — never happier than when hewing logs, redeeming prostitutes or writing a commentary on Homer. But he was the exception, not the rule. And even in his High Victorian heyday, there were plenty of people who thought him a humbug and a hypocrite.

The truth is that Johnson fits perfectly well into the general run of British Prime Ministers. His critics accuse him of being lazy and dilettantish, as if all his predecessors had been martyrs to their paperwork. Yet one of our most underrated premiers, Herbert Henry Asquith, spent long afternoons playing bridge with pretty girls and was outraged that the advent of the First World War forced him to miss a country house weekend with his adored Venetia Stanley — again, a quarter of a century his junior. Another criminally underestimated Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, was flogged at Harrow for writing amateur pornography, scraped a Third at Cambridge, took legendarily long summer holidays in Aix-les-Bains and was regarded by some of his contemporaries as one of the laziest men they had ever met. Yet Asquith ran the country for almost nine years, Baldwin for seven. Would they have been more popular if they had worked harder? Perhaps we should ask Gordon Brown.

Johnson is also typical in being a natural performer, who loves showing off and playing to the gallery. Bien-pensant intellectuals shudder at this sort of thing, because they think politicians should be like university lecturers, dropping abstract nouns into the dead silence of the seminar room. Yet in reality, successful politicians are almost always entertainers. This was true even in the pre-democratic age, when they needed to perform to the court and the monarch. And most successful modern Prime Ministers have been shameless actors, gleefully pandering to the expectations of their audiences.

Think of Tony Blair, formerly the lead singer of Ugly Rumours. Think of Harold Wilson, hamming it up with a pipe he never smoked offstage. Think of Margaret Thatcher, rarely happier than when donning her overalls to tour a Cadbury’s Creme Egg factory. Or read Christopher Hibbert’s portrait of the ultimate Victorian populist, Benjamin Disraeli, strolling down Regent Street in blue trousers and red-striped stockings, the dyed “black curls carefully arranged in the centre of his forehead, one of his eyelids drooping now, his tired, pale face gently rouged, rings worn over the fingers of his white and lavender gloves”. How Disraeli would have enjoyed appearing on Have I Got News for You!

Disraeli is an excellent example of that supremely British political species, the mountebank. He was a chancer, a trickster, an opportunist, a conman. His only principle was his own self-interest. When he was a young man, Lord Melbourne asked him what he wanted from life. “I want to be Prime Minister,” Disraeli said. Melbourne let out a long sigh, but Disraeli was deadly serious. “If I become half as famous as I intend to be,” he said on another occasion, “I must have riches and power.”

For Lord Salisbury, Disraeli was a “mere political gangster”, without “principles or honesty”. That description applies equally well to other great Downing Street mountebanks, such as the Liberal charlatan, crook and sex pest David Lloyd George. “My supreme idea is to get on,” LG told his wife Margaret. “To this idea I shall sacrifice everything … even love itself under the wheels of my juggernaut if it obstructs the way.” He meant every word. Not content with lining his pockets in the Marconi scandal, he stabbed his own patron, Asquith, in the back, betrayed his party and flogged peerages for cash. Some biographers think LG even slept with his own son’s wife. By those standards, Boris looks positively saintly.

Any other patterns? Well, here’s one we don’t often talk about. When Prime Ministers arrive in Downing Street, they usually make pious noises about bringing the country together. Even Johnson, after the general election of December 2019, told the cameras that it was “time to unite” and “let the healing begin”. But this is nonsense. You don’t become Prime Minister by uniting and healing; that’s what the Queen is for. To govern is to choose; to choose is to divide. And to divide, by and large, is to win.

Of the handful of truly great Prime Ministers, most were instinctive dividers. Few politicians in our history have been more adored than Gladstone, but few have been so hated, either. Disraeli thought him an “unprincipled maniac … an extraordinary mixture of envy, vindictiveness, hypocrisy and superstition”. Clement Attlee called him a “frightful old prig” and a “dreadful person”. Yet Gladstone served four terms as Prime Minister, more than Disraeli and Attlee put together. And what about Margaret Thatcher — another much-loathed divider, but also another record-breaking winner? Would she have done better to search for a middle course, to seek consensus, to duck the difficult decisions? Well, just ask Theresa May.

What’s it all for, though? That’s a more difficult question. Few Prime Ministers make an indelible mark on history; most end up largely forgotten. As Johnson must now realise, you sacrifice your best years, your family, your friends, even your health — and for what? A portrait on the stairs? The opportunity to spend the rest of your life with your bodyguards? The rare privilege of having people shout abuse at you wherever you go?

This, I think, is the unacknowledged truth about the life of a Prime Minister. By and large, it’s awful. Contrary to our adolescent fantasies, fame and success are no defence against the tragedies of the human condition. Asquith lost his eldest son Raymond at the Somme, and arguably never really recovered. His Tory rival Andrew Bonar Law lost two sons in the First World War, too, and spent his final days “despondently gazing into vacancy … obliterating light and happiness”.

And on top of the ordinary miseries of human existence, politics piles troubles of its own. Nobody ever thanks you, nothing you do is right and everything ends in tears. Baldwin, who left office in 1937 with applause ringing in his ears, ended his life as a pariah, the gates of his house spitefully ripped down for wartime scrap. Thatcher was kicked out despite never losing an election. Blair, another serial winner, can barely show his face without people screaming at him about Iraq.

Even Walpole, the man who invented the job, and perhaps the most underestimated Prime Minister in our history, was denied the pleasure of a long and happy retirement. For 20 years he had kept Britain safe, stable and, above all, rich. But in 1742 Parliament turned against him, eager for a leader who would embrace war with Spain. So that was that: out he went.

Walpole lived for just two more years, his days blighted by agonising bladder stones. He died, wrote his son Horace, “very poor”, his estates heavily mortgaged. “His Name will not be recorded in History among the best men, or the best Ministers,” wrote his contemporary Lord Chesterfield. There’s gratitude for you.

Sorry, Boris. You can’t say you haven’t been warned.


Dominic Sandbrook is an author, historian and UnHerd columnist. His latest book is: Who Dares Wins: Britain, 1979-1982

dcsandbrook

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Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago

So the defence is this: they’re all rotten, so why carp? Well, in the first place because the cynical shrug is father to further abuse. Second, because on those rare occasions when we have enjoyed active, diligent service, real people have done well. Your examples are instructive. Baldwin was too lazy to recognise the German threat and failed to rearm with sufficient speed. Johnson on China? Asquith was too preoccupied with his boozy love-life to notice the July crisis, until Sir Edward Grey’s prevarications had let everyone imagine Britain would act in their interests. Johnson and Symonds? And there is one shining exception to the run of indolent, self-centred good-for-nothings you parade in Johnson’s defence. A woman. A woman who gave every last bit of her strength to rescuing this country, freeing business and the individual from the dead hands of nationalised bureaucracy and union power. Beside her, the flabby, drunken, improvident cowards you offer as examples are exposed as the charlatans they are – and that includes Johnson.

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Let’s hope he doesn’t deindustrialise Britain like Thatcher did. Germany didn’t have a Thatcher and I don’t hear them crying out to have BMW, BASF, Mercedes, Siemens, Haribo, etc etc etc thrown on the scrap heap while they focus on manipulating share prices and indulging in financial engineering.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Nonsense. British industry failed because it was overmanned, outdated and torpid. It recovered thereafter. The car industry, before Johnson’s covid panic, has been doing well in Britain.

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

“It recovered thereafter”
Ah yes, all those Northern places which don’t matter to Tories, full of people who don’t matter to Tories except on polling day, are full of factories again, aren’t they?
Compare Britain with Germany. NO-ONE in Germany says “if only we had had Thatcher instead of Helmut Schmidt”.

Weyland Smith
Weyland Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

They may not matter to the Tories ‘except on polling day’, but the ex-mining communities certainly passed a verdict on Labour.

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  Weyland Smith

And are now moving back to Labour.
But neither the 2019 election result, nor speculation about the result of a 2023/2024 election, is the point here. My point is that eulogising Margaret Thatcher is easy if your community didn’t bear the brunt of the deindustrialisation she created by sky-high interest rates and exchange rates – at the behest of the money men on the benches behind her and in the Tory Establishment generally, who ensured that their privileged lives in the Home Counties were not affected. That’s why the deindustrialised areas became Tory-free zones, and the Tories have only found their way back in as memories of Margaret Thatcher have faded. And, of course, the Tories have found their way back in with identity politics – their candidates would still be locked out if they presented the social and economic attitudes of the Tory party more widely. I know Tory party members from the Home Counties who were in favour of the recent-past Tory policy of cutting spending on state school pupils by 8% per pupil, but frantically in favour of VAT exemption for private school fees – even though the cost of 20% VAT exemption for Eton’s ÂŁ43k annual fees, which is ÂŁ8600pa, is actually more than the total cost of state school secondary education (5-6000 pa). Try putting that Tory attitude to ‘red wall’ voters and see where it gets you. That’s why they stick to what could be summarised as “if you’re white, vote right”.

Last edited 3 years ago by Chris C
Tom Fox
Tom Fox
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Ha ha ha – moving back to Labour? You wish….

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Of course, the other side were blameless. I remember it differently. The commies in the unions nearly destroyed British industry. The unions were corrupt to the core and still are.

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Smith

I guess that’s the unions which campaign against workers being told they will be fired if they don’t sign a new contract with longer hours and lower pay per hour (as with British Gas currently).
And the unions which campaign against Directors giving themselves massive pay rises while claiming that employee pay must be held below inflation because “the company can’t afford it”.
Yes, I can see why supporters of the party which receives more than 50% of its funding at election time from bankers and hedge fund managers would dislike unions.

Weyland Smith
Weyland Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Or you could guess at King Arthur’s refusal to give ‘his’ members a vote in their own destruction.

Jean Fothers
Jean Fothers
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

The “massive” pay rises of the Directors was little compared to the financial handouts given to union leaders in the 60s and 70s by Russia.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

There was also the impact of the poll tax – especially in Scotland.

Weyland Smith
Weyland Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Moving back to labour? Not while they screech “If you’re white, you’re a bag of shyte” – to use your vernacular.

K Sheedy
K Sheedy
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

“deindustrialisation she created by sky-high interest rates and exchange rates ” Maggie responded to global forces, she had precious little influence on interest and exchange rates. Like every other PM, she was responding to global economic forces. What she did may have been good or bad, but don’t blame her (or give her credit ) for stuff she could not control. See Mr Erdogan’s efforts.

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  K Sheedy

Interest rates (which in those days were set by Governments via the Bank of England Minimum Lending Rate, increases in which were announced by politicians just as they announced tax changes) were deliberately hiked to choke off inflation. As a result, sterling soared as investors deposited money in sterling-denominated accounts. Meanwhile, the real economy was strangled.

mark taha
mark taha
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

As a saver I believe in zero inflation and 5% interest rates for all time.I also remember the way arrogant union leaders and militants wrecked Britain in the 70s.

Paul Goodman
Paul Goodman
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Labour will loose Hartlepool.

Aidan Trimble
Aidan Trimble
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Ah, an anecdote about evil Tories. Must be kosher.

L Paw
L Paw
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Meanwhile back in the real world that most of us live in, we have a flip flop Labour leader who has incredible 20/20 powers of hindsight of what Boris ought to have done in the pandemic months ago. Labour dominated councils in the North responsible for Rochdale child grooming scandal. Labour run Wales with its disastrous NHS, unable to treat patients. Labour lost the 2019 election because it was taken over by militant extreme left and could easily be taken over again by the same.

David J
David J
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Moving back to Labour?! In what parallel universe do you exist?
The knee-bender Starmer barely rates a listen, let alone a vote.
The Libdems maintain a subterranean presence, as do the remants of the SDOP.

mark taha
mark taha
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Margaret Thatcher was among our greatest Prime Ministers but brought herself down by bringing in the Poll Tax. All heroes have feet of clay – Lloyd George was undoubtedly crooked but also a great Prime Minister. Who else could have done his job in the First World War?

Jean Fothers
Jean Fothers
3 years ago
Reply to  mark taha

The thing that brought down Margaret Thatcher was her own backstabbing EU loving traiters in her own party. For example, the disgusting Heseltine and the hopeless Howe.She would have taken us out of the eu but people like Heseltine stood to lose too much if she had.

Jean Fothers
Jean Fothers
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

The biggest acts of de-industrialisation in UK was carried out under Blair’s govts.
Also, more railways were closed by Wilson’s lot than by the tories and Beeching.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Actually, a lot of Germans do say just that, 18 years working for Germans taught me that. They had Helmut Kohl and then Mutti instead, so they got there in the end

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

I have worked for months in Germany and often got into political discussions. Not one German, ever, said that they wished they had had Margaret Thatcher. They are proud of German industry, they don’t look at deindustrialised Blackburn or Middlesbrough and say “we really wish Stuttgart was like that, I blame Bosch and Mercedes, if only we could get rid of them then Stuttgart could be like Blackburn”.

Aidan Trimble
Aidan Trimble
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

More anecdotes. Brilliant.

David J
David J
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Not sure that quoting Labour-controlled Blackburn does your case much good.
Still, the town has plenty of business parks these days, and big names like BAE Systems nearby.

Robert Forde
Robert Forde
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

I agree, on the basis of living in Germany for over ten years. They also didn’t think that working people’s incomes should be depressed as much as possible to save money for top people’s bonuses. They embraced the idea of high wages because it forced them to be efficient.

Jonathan Weil
Jonathan Weil
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Perhaps not; but then, Germany in 1979 was in a very different place from us, was it not?

Incidentally, I bet there are plenty of Germans today who are very pleased we did have Thatcher. Say what you like about her domestic record, she was instrumental in bringing about the end of the Soviet empire, and hence the reunification of Germany (which, I know, she wasn’t too pleased about herself).

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan Weil

You’re probably right about the USSR and German unification.
They have another reason to be pleased with Thatcherism and its successors (Blairism, Cameronism….). I used to work in a world-renowned site which had a German competitor in the same company. One day the company decided to ‘rationalise’. Closing the German site would have involved long delays as German staff exercised their legal rights to consultation. Closing the British site could be done easily because the British have few rights at work. So the British site was closed, and German workers were hired to do the work previously done by the now-unemployed British. Who could then be derided by Bullingdon Boy George Osborne as lying-in-bed scroungers while others go to work.
Funny, isn’t it, how right-wingers who wrap themselves in the flag are so often those who sell this country down the river while our competitors benefit?

Paul Goodman
Paul Goodman
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Still fighting the arguments lost 40 years ago like the Black Knight from Monty Python.
As to what they say in Germay have you seen the Bild headline “We envy you” 24th feb 2021?
Which is why “those Northern Places” you refer to voted for Boris.

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Goodman

Bild will have been talking about vaccination (and Bild has its own very right wing agenda, BTW – the headline will have been aimed at those German politicians who don’t pander to Bild (most do to a greater or lesser extent), not aimed at the British as a serious analysis of the UK)..
They won’t have been saying “we envy you because we Germans work in VW factories for 30 Euros an hour, and industrial design offices for 80 Euros an hour, whereas you British work stacking shelves in Asda or fry burgers in McDonalds for the miminum wage because Thatcher destroyed so much of your industry, how lucky you British are”.

Robert Forde
Robert Forde
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Goodman

They voted for Boris because he promised to “get Brexit done”, which indeed he has. What he didn’t tell them was what the cost would be. Now we have staunch Brexiteers in fishing and farming wailing that this isn’t what they meant. And the NI Unionists don’t like it either. BJ has benefited from the post-vaccine bounce (because the NHS organisation carried this bit out – the rest of covid policy’s been a lethal mess) but we’re a long way from the next general election yet.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Let’s not forget Cyril Northcote Parkinson and his laws which explain how well the government works in managing. It seems prudent to allow industry a chance to profit but with some controls created by laws.

Robert Forde
Robert Forde
3 years ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

Parkinson was a long time ago. More recently, the only bit of the covid programme which has worked well is the vaccination roll-out – entirely managed by the public sector NHS.
I’m all in favour of capitalism, provided it doesn’t get in the way of free enterprise. But the pro-capitalist economist Ha-Joon Chang explains it very well and readably in “23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism”.

gav.green
gav.green
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Let’s see how it does after Brexit

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Life president of the Gordon Brown fanclub?

Fred Atkinstalk
Fred Atkinstalk
3 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

The job is taken – by Gordon Brown.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

BMW =/= British Leyland in case you hadn’t noticed. Why did we all buy BMWs and VWs instead of Austins? Why was that?

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Because they were better cars. And because an unrealistically strong pound, propelled by sky high interest rates “to defeat inflation” thanks to Thatcher, made them more competitive than they should have been. And the sky high interest rates discouraged investment in Britain.
Sensible societies don’t junk swathes of their economy on the basis that “who cares about the North, old boy? All my money is in stockbroking and all my friends live in Surrey.” That’s what Thatcher and the Tories did. That’s why she was hated across swathes of Britain where people used to work in making things rather than manipulating share prices and indulging in financial engineering.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

You really are untrammelled by facts, aren’t you? So hated she won 3 consecutive elections with huge majorities. Did you know we made more cars in 2019 in Britain than we had at any point in the socialist paradise of the 1960’s and 1970’s?

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

You’re missing the point. This part of the discussion started with me writing “those Northern places which don’t matter to Tories, full of people who don’t matter to Tories except on polling day”. Thatcher didn’t win with the votes of the people in those areas. Getting a majority by getting Surrey and Hampshire to vote Tory isn’t relevant. And when the scales fell from peoples’ eyes in the late 1980s, across the whole country, and they realised the deindustrialised low-pay economy she had created, she became a massive liability to the Tories and they ditched her to avoid certain defeat. How does that fit with your portrayal of her as a national hero, revered by all who lived through the golden age she had led the nation to? Are you seriously claiming that Tory MPs were wrong to ditch her?
Yes, I am aware that the car industry has been a British success story in recent years – though note, the “making” of cars you refer to consists of assembling them with predominantly foreign-made parts now, not the predominantly British parts which were used in previous decades. But while the car industry may be your favourite example, you surely are aware that productive industry as a whole has dwindled?

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

And the Leyland cars were shoddily built and were rust buckets.

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Smith

All cars were rust buckets if you go back far enough. Sane countries made sure they kept their industries so that they could improve. Countries dominated by financial speculation in one corner of the country around the national capital were happy to see the rest of the country deindustrialised. Remind you of any country you know?

David Brown
David Brown
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

By the late 1970s / early 1980s German Fords were given an extra layer of paint compared with the Dagenham product. It made them less inclined to rust. I suspect that the build standard was generally higher, too.
Back then the UK motor industry was a bloated, over-unionised monster, perpetually on the verge of collapse, and frequently going cap in hand to HMG for hand-outs.

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  David Brown

So what?
Are you going to blame the unions for a decision on how many coats of paint Ford cars had?
VW and BMW cars used to rust like hell. They stayed in business and improved them. Only Britain destroyed its industries and concentrated on financial manipulation for the upper middle class in the Home Counties, and stacking shelves for the minimum wage everywhere else (generalisations I know, but much closer to the truth than fantasies that Britain is prosperous after eleven years of Tory Government).

L Paw
L Paw
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Yes we’d all have been much better off in Corbyn’s socialist paradise for the last 11 years. Or under a Gov’t like Callaghan’s in the ’70’s ending with a winter of discontent when rubbish piled high in the streets, the dead went unburied, inflation was out of control, as Labour’s friends in the Unions held Britain to ransom for another pay rise.

Jean Fothers
Jean Fothers
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

The unions, whose leaders were in the pay of the USSR, were the ones who caused the collapse of the British car industry.

Jean Fothers
Jean Fothers
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Red Robbo, the union leader who kept taking car workers out on strike, was the most instrumental in closing down the car industry in the 1970s early 80s.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

VW because they were a decent car at a reasonable price. BWM (& Mercedes) mainly snob value.

roger dog
roger dog
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Are BMW, BASF, Mercedes, Siemens, Haribo, etc loss-making, tax-payer funded, nationalised businesses?

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  roger dog

Rolls Royce was nationalised in 1971 by Ted Heath when it had been ruined under private sector management. It was put back on its feet under public control, and returned to the private sector. That’s what SUCCESS looks like.
If it had collapsed in 1981 rather than 1971, Thatcher would have let it go to the wall. The jobs would be in America now. That’s what FAILURE looks like.
Now apply that to the British industries, both private and public (why do you focus on ‘nationalised’ businesses? is that ideologically easier than accepting that most deindustrialisation happened through the collapse of private sector companies?) which simply went to the wall because of Thatcher’s policy of defeating inflation irrespective of the effect on the real economy.
Isn’t it funny how those on the right, who declare that they are the patriots and are not above describing Socialists as ‘traitors’ on occasion, who still defend destroying much of this country’s economy? Often the ideological strings of these ‘patriots’ are being pulled by self-styled think tanks which are funded by foreigners from 3000 miles to the West. Who do you think funds the Institute of Economic Affairs, for example?

Last edited 3 years ago by Chris C
JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

If the Tories are trying to rip off the British people, line their own pockets, all your constant stuff, why would they want to ruin their own economy?

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Because they can externalise the costs while capturing the benefits for themselves.
When some British company in Manchester or Preston is sold off, City institutions like Mergers and Acquisition specialists, corporate lawyers, etc, make a fortune. They are based in the South East. Bankers and Hedge Funds have contributed more than 50% of the big donations to the Tory party at some elections. For a party which only cares about the South, why does the fact that workers will lose their jobs in Manchester or Preston matter?

Robert Forde
Robert Forde
3 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

They’re just busy socialising the risk and privatising the profit. Look at Cameron’s recent attempt to bail out Green Shill with taxpayers’ money. Fortunately, it didn’t work, but others (eg, Carillion) collapsed despite much public assistance. Then there’s tax-scrounging…

Tom Fox
Tom Fox
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Your RR remark is a monstrous distortion amounting to a lie. RR almost went bankrupt while developing what turned out to be the best and most economical aero engine for passenger planes on the planet. The RB211 development engine was the forerunner of the TRent and that whole family of large turbofan engines which power about half of the large passenger planes on the planet right now.

I stopped reading at that remark, so am not commenting on the rest of your post, on the grounds that once a man proves to be a liar, I discount everything else he ever says.

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Fox

I agree that the carbon fibre blades of the RB211 were a technological advance which eventually came good when the teething problems were solved. But the crippling penalty clauses in the Lockheed contract which RR agreed to in order to sell them the RB211, combined with RR’s inability to solve the engine problems in the timescale needed to satisfy Lockheed, bankrupted RR. You can’t argue with bankruptcy. RR went bankrupt under private ownership. It was rescued by nationalisation, which bought it time to solve the problems. If Thatcher had been in charge then, it would have gone to the wall and there would be no RR today.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

RR had to be nationalised because it made the reactors for our nuclear submarines.

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago

That’s another reason, but they COULD have ditched the jet engines and let Americans (GE and P+W) corner the market – and probably that’s what would have happened if the oh-so-wonderful Margaret Thatcher had been in control through RR being bankrupted by its poor management decisions in 1981 rather than 1971. Thank goodness Ted Heath was around, otherwise Britain wouldn’t have an aero engine business today – just like Britain doesn’t have so many other industries now, thanks to what Thatcher did in the 1980s.

L Paw
L Paw
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Just so many if’s and buts to support your hatred of Margaret Thatcher. Sad.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Thatcher saved the British car industry by personally ensuring that Honda and Nissan came here. And Johnson is in the process of establishing the UK as a major manufacturing centre for vaccines and other bio-tech.
Industrialisation as represented by British Leyland and British Steel isn’t worth having.

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago

Honda are leaving.

Jean Fothers
Jean Fothers
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

That’s because Mercedes, BMW etc were helped out financially behind the scenes (because it’s against eu rules). So they always looked successful even when strugling.

Douglas McNeish
Douglas McNeish
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

There. Someone said it. Thank you Simon Denis.

Steve J
Steve J
3 years ago

I don’t care how many women PM Johnson has shagged and how often.
I do care that he is a bullshitter who signed an awful treaty with the EU that put a border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
I do care that his awful handling of COVID means that the UK has one of the worst death rates and one of the worst drops in GDP despite the government spending obscene amounts of money.
I do care that I have been under house arrest for large parts of the last year for committing no crime and that we still have restrictions in the UK despite the fact that the vast majority of people vulnerable to COVID have been vaccinated.

JÇĄážżÈ…Ć› áșŽÈ­Ç–Ć„g
JÇĄážżÈ…Ć› áșŽÈ­Ç–Ć„g
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve J

By “one of the worst death rates” you mean “eleventh”. And most of the preceding ten are in Europe. Italy will displace us shortly, sadly.
We are also in the top ten for numbers of tests performed, top 3/4 for number of people vaccinated and top four for reduction in new infections.
If you want to ascribe the first to Boris, you must also subscribe the rest. History will judge him on the totality, and the game is not yet ended.

Phil Mac
Phil Mac
3 years ago

And questionable differences in measurement of death rates criteria.

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago

It’s the worst Covid death rate per million population in the world, for countries larger than 20 million.
Why is that? Do you think it’s been caused by Marxist militants or reds under the bed?
No, it started when Boris played truant from five COBRA meetings in February and March 2020 which were deciding Britain’s response to the pandemic. Managing the transition from his cancer treatment wife to his pregnant mistress was his priority.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

You and all the other Boris haters are going to be very disappointed when the final, macabre, international league table, based on excess deaths, is published.
Perhaps someone should set up a boxing ring – outdoors, obviously – where those who think Boris failed by delaying lockdown can fight it out with those who think lockdowns don’t have any impact on deaths at all. I’d buy a ticket.

Simon Holder
Simon Holder
3 years ago

Well said. People like the above need putting in their place. Yes, it was calamitous at first but, come on, be fair; nobody knew what it was, where it came from (except, possibly, the Chinese) how dangerous and so on. The only real criticism I have is that he should have listened to a wider range of epidemiologists, notably Gupta and Heneghan. Sadly, he listened to ones who instinctively wanted to do him down, like Niall Ferguson. And the NI question will get sorted in time, as will our economy, poised like a freed spring to recover, unlike Europe. It’s just the vindictive, unfriendly, hostile and spiteful elites in the EU who are in the way. With real people who respected our wish to leave and agreed to a pleasant divorce, they would probably have fared better within the bloc if they had not resisted our leaving. Respect is important; I suggest their infantile behaviour towards us will do more to bring about the end of the EU than anything we did. I hope so – can’t wait! As for Boris, under this flak he’s doing a lot of very good things. He will be regarded as a very good PM, if not great, like Thatcher or Churchill. (Who was no racist, either!)

Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve J

I think you’ll find the death rates are almost identical. For reasons best known to themselves the NHS has been counting any and every death as ‘Covid’. More the merrier sort of thinking I suppose.

Tom Fox
Tom Fox
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

No – he is right. While we and Belgium over count, others like the French under count heavily.

Besides – there are major differences in populations which are not within the purview of governments. One is teh age demographic of the country. We are pretty ‘old’, by comparison to some others, and we are VERY fat. Old and Fat make a very bad combination.

The best measure of mortality which gets around a lot of the problem in comparing national death rates from covid, is to look at Age Adjusted All Cause Mortality. This compares mortality over the last five year average. On taht more accurate measure, the UK is FAR from among the worst performers.

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Fox

A side point, but obesity is not totally outside the purview of Government. From 2010 onwards, the obesity aspect of public health has been largely sub-contracted to the food industry, with the exception of the sugar tax. Things have only been done if the food industry was OK with them, and they were allowed to get away with promising and then (after some years) not delivering.

Charly P-B
Charly P-B
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Obesity has been falling since the honey tax came in.

Charly P-B
Charly P-B
3 years ago
Reply to  Charly P-B

Piglet campaigned hard against the acorn tax.

David Brown
David Brown
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

I’m not sure it’s as much dishonesty or desperation, as that its just easier that way. As a doctor, during “an emergency period” (such as the COVID pandemic) you are allowed to certify death without having directly treated the deceased. If you are not sure of the cause of death, you can put COVID, or refer it to the coroner. The deceased is over eighty, what are you going to do?
Probably, you’ll just put COVID.
Is that dishonest? Maybe. Desperate? I don’t think so.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

Yes, it’s almost as if the NHS is populated by devote left wingers who want to undermine the government.

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

They don’t. Most deaths are not listed as Covid.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve J

Is any blame put at the door of individuals whose unhealthy lifestyles leave them overweight and vulnerable. What is it… 35% of the population?

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago

Or the food industry, which has discovered that maltodextrin is full of calories but doesn’t trigger feelings of fullness, so people keep eating the product.

mark taha
mark taha
3 years ago

Including me!

Jack Walker
Jack Walker
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve J

I disagree with your second paragraph. There are few countries that has handled this well, and for some reason that escapes all logic we count deaths very differently to other countries. There is no standardised approach.
I agree with your final paragraph.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

‘Outside the academy, who now recalls Arthur Balfour, Andrew Bonar Law or Sir Alec Douglas-Home? Who still cares about Harold Wilson? Who, realistically, will remember Gordon Brown?’
Well I am not exactly in ‘the academy’ and I recall or remember them for various reaons. After all, Balfour was responsbile for the Balfour Declaration and Doubtless-Whom (to use John Lennon’s term for him) was a very find shooter of game. Wilson should be remembered for keeping us out of Vietnam, and those of us who lived through Brown’s time as Chancellor and PM will never forget his role in countless disasters.

Phil Mac
Phil Mac
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

To be fair to Brown, he kept us out of the Euro and in doing so in all probability made it feasible to leave the EU. I don’t know if he wants that as his epitaph but even for him it must beat “saving the World”, abolishing boom and bust and his immortal encounter with Gillian Duffy.

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  Phil Mac

If the global financial system had collapsed, as it probably would without his efforts (George W. Bush clearly wasn’t up to it), I suspect you would revise your views about the importance of preventing that.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

You’ve been reading his memoirs; or maybe writing them

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Bush and his people didn’t prevent global financial collapse. Should have, but didn’t.
So is your argument that
(a) Brown didn’t do it because someone else did (please name them)?
or
(b) neither Brown nor anyone else did it, the global financial system saved itself?
Your answer?

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

The answer is (b). The system sorted itself out, as it does when not interfered with by politicians. Glad I can help. Don’t tell Gordon though, I hate to see illusions shattered

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

You are rewriting history in the most fantastic way.
The system did not “sort itself out”. Brown spent ÂŁ1.1 trillion propping up British banks alone, and co-ordinated the international response which saw other Governments do the same for their own financial institutions. Co-ordination was needed because the international network of linkages meant each individual national Government couldn’t prevent disaster on its own.
Do you really not know this? I’m astonished.

David Owsley
David Owsley
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

He also had a pivotal roles in causing the collapse in the first place. He was also slow to react: probably basking in the ‘glory’ of Blair leaving (at a suspiciously perfect time for Blair). He got the idea of bailing out the banks from Iceland so not his idea, other countries did follow suit though.

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  David Owsley

How did he “cause the collapse in the first place” ?
He didn’t trade Collateralised Debt Obligations while pocketing million pound bonuses. The banksters are the people who caused the collapse.
As for regulation, the Tories were attacking Labour for OVER regulating the Tories’ wonderful friends in the City (and the Tory party’s paymasters) – John Redwood ran a Tory enquiry into the City which declared that mortgage lending should be completely deregulated because there was no possible risk to the public interest. That must be some kind of millennium record for getting it wrong. And Cameron signed it off as official Tory policy.

David Owsley
David Owsley
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

It is clear from your final paragraph that you know exactly what I mean so you first sentence question is a bit superfluous, no? Plus there is “regulation” and “regulation”, the Conservatives were not clamoring for what was done: the BoE, HMT, FSA triumvirate may have seemed fine on paper but needed policing. This was the ’cause’, just as Clinton’s repealing of certain aspects the Glass-Steagall Act did in the USA (in a nutshell investment/commercial bank separation removed)’
As Peter Lilley put it perfectly in 1997 (and foreseeing what happened: “the Government may, almost casually, have bitten off more than they can chew. The process of setting up the FSA may cause regulators to take their eye off the ball, while spivs and crooks have a field day.”

David Owsley
David Owsley
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Neither a nor b.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago
Reply to  Phil Mac

Look again at the superb moment when Blair dodges the question of Euro membership in Peter Hitchen’s sardonic ‘This Sceptic Isle’ programme, still available on YouTube. Brown’s ‘five tests’ were basically ‘Not in a million years if I have anything to do with it.”

Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
3 years ago
Reply to  Phil Mac

But he was a crap businessman, selling off so much Gold at the bottom of the market.

Last edited 3 years ago by Andy Yorks
Duncan Hunter
Duncan Hunter
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

That at least gave us the expression “Brown Bottom” for the crazily low price at which he flogged our gold…

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

And didn’t he also pre-announce the event so giving speculators a chance for a killing?

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Phil Mac

Apparently it was actually that frustrated hoofer Ed ‘he with the apparently unprintable surname on Unherd’ not Gordon Brown who kept the UK out of the Euro, hastily scribbling down the Five Tests for Brown in the back of a cab in New York on the way to a meeting regarding international finance.

Certainly made me come to see him in a far more favourable light once I’d discovered that.

Last edited 3 years ago by G Harris
Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Phil Mac

This fact is often raised in Brown’s defence. But I among those who believe he only wanted to stay out of the euro because Blair wanted to go in. And, perhaps, because he was a control freak who could not have tolerated the ECB controlling interest rates etc. So, he did indeed get something right, but probably for the wrong reasons.

Fred Atkinstalk
Fred Atkinstalk
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Generally nothing is said in Brown’s defence, because he is indefensible. All of it is said merely in mitigation.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Gordon Brown was an excellent technical worker…but this is not the greatest qualification to be PM. I think Brown would have been treated better by history if he hadn’t gone into No. 10.

Lindsay Gatward
Lindsay Gatward
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Surely Brown will forever be remembered in the history of ‘media gaffes’ for his iconic election losing live mike remark from his limo “that bigoted woman” when the woman had said exactly what his ‘voters’ were all thinking – And also in the history of ‘failed finance’ for announcing precisely when he would sell tons of gold in order to supress the price to a record low especially as Brown thought himself a finance whiz.

William Cameron
William Cameron
3 years ago

I dont care who the PM shaggs (two gs to get past the IT censors) . I dont even care if he is lazy. Thats a virtue in a leader. Nothing worse than a micro manager.
But if you want to be a lazy leader you can only do that if you have a very good clever team around you.
Clever leaders promote people cleverer than themselves to get the work done. They have the self confidence not to feel threatened by able supporters.
Unfortunately Boris has failed this test . Fearful of competition he has chosen the thickest bunch of incompetents in a cabinet I have ever seen. They are stupendously mendacious and stupid. A truly frightful bunch of dishonest thickos. If you added their IQs together you would struggle to reach 100.

Last edited 3 years ago by William Cameron
Tom Fox
Tom Fox
3 years ago

What? Like Rishy Sunak, Alok Sharma and Matt Hancock?

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
3 years ago

I disagree with your final paragraph. The low quality of the Cabinet is a reflection of the generally low quality of the current set of Tory MPs. Who are the overlooked talented Tories who you think should be in the Cabinet?

David Brown
David Brown
3 years ago

By all accounts, as mayor of Greater London he did exactly as you recommend. Perhaps the problem is not that he has picked people no better than himself for his Cabinet, but that he has no-one better to choose from? After all, as mayor, he could go for anyone willing to do the job, but as PM, he is limited to members of his own party in Parliament. Yes, he could opt for someone outside the Westminster bubble, and ennoble them, but that tends to cause both unfavourable comment outside the party, and envy within it.

Paul Goodman
Paul Goodman
3 years ago

Hmm. Erudite use of the word “thickos”

Eleanor Barlow
Eleanor Barlow
3 years ago

What I’ve noticed is that it’s often working class people who relate better to leaders of upper class privileged backgrounds than the middle classes.
It’s probably because people like Johnson are supremely confident and not particularly bothered about hiding the grubbier moments in their personal history. Nor do they have any particular desire to meddle in the personal lives of those they rule.
Whereas the middle classes are never happy unless they are lecturing the working classes whether it’s about their alleged racism, booze, cigarettes, too much food or their lifestyle in general.

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  Eleanor Barlow

Lots of people have believed Boris. The country is littered with them and their offspring.
And the fishermen believed Boris for a long while. A few weeks ago, the leader of their national association admitted that he had completely shafted them. But they’ve served their purpose. Once there’s no need to lie to people, Boris leaves them in his wake.

David Owsley
David Owsley
3 years ago

Remember the “dramatic” arguments Boris and Carrie had? None of that now he has been emasculated and led by the nose. Green lunacy seemingly illogically intertwined with ‘EU based’ project HS2 (to be followed by HS3 and HS4, to complete the Hunger Games [films] set-up and allow the EU empire to quickly move troops to the farthest reaches) semi botched Brexit deal and now Covid totalitarianism. Only the excellently executed and well maintained psy-ops will save him: much/most of the population like the masks and lockdown.

Last edited 3 years ago by David Owsley
Martin Adams
Martin Adams
3 years ago

It is striking that so many comments are preoccupied with their authors’ loathing of Boris Johnson — as if the comments are reactions to a claim that he has the makings of a great prime minister. That is not the purpose of Mr Sandbrook’s article, which is a well-written and often amusing historical account demonstrating a simple principle — political success and personal virtue have no necessary connection, however much we might wish the opposite.
Of the many examples given, Lloyd George is the one who has always stood out to me. That might be partly because I was raised in Wales, where he was still a hero — his well-known sexual and other peccadilloes notwithstanding. The chapel-goers just said nothing about it; or they giggled quietly; or they and we school-boys sang “Lloyd George Knew My Father” with a nudge and a wink. And in the meantime we all knew that his generally accepted status among the greatest prime ministers was assured. (Many polls over the last twenty years have confirmed this standing.)
I have no idea about how time will judge Boris Johnson. But I doubt that bouts of self-righteous indignation will inform the historical assessment, any more than they have for Lloyd-George or for most of the ambitious scoundrels in Mr Sandbook’s article.

Last edited 3 years ago by Martin Adams
David Pinder
David Pinder
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Adams

Bravo! Thank you for pulling (or trying to pull) the discussion back to the points that Dominic Sandbrook set out to make. I, too, enjoyed the article: it’s well-written and witty.

David Brown
David Brown
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Adams

Was there not, some years ago, a cartoon, I think in Private Eye, where a man who looks exactly like Lloyd George claims that “Lloyd George knew my mother“?

Last edited 3 years ago by David Brown
Martin Adams
Martin Adams
3 years ago
Reply to  David Brown

I don’t know about the cartoon. But I can well believe what you say. I certainly remember that when, as secondary school pupils in Wales we sang “Lloyd George Knew My Father”, our minds were full of unstated ambiguities based on his nickname “The Goat”. Excellent!!

Last edited 3 years ago by Martin Adams
John Stone
John Stone
3 years ago

Straw man argument – Johnson is not a good Prime Minister. He deserves credit for resolving the Brexit issue – it certainly took more nerve than any other of our leading politicians could muster. Nevertheless, he is a completely awful dupe for a vile global agenda, and he doesn’t understand what he’s doing. Just a fifth rate bully.

James Rowlands
James Rowlands
3 years ago

The difference between those previous PMs and Boris is that they were at least moderately competent at doing their job and they were not lead by their nose by their mistress.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  James Rowlands

Also it was possible to get away with a fairly lively private life in the past without the general public being aware of it. Most recent PMs have been portrayed as happily married ( just the once ) family men. It was Margaret Thatcher’s husband who got a divorce so that didn’t affect her career and people were always rather suspicious of ‘batchelor’ Heath. Boris is a bit like an advert-he is ok for 20 seconds when he knocks down the wall to ‘get brexit done’ or holds up his dog Dilyn in a photo-op -otherwise he doesn’t seem capable of doing the job.

Dave Weeden
Dave Weeden
3 years ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

Dennis Thatcher got a divorce? If you mean he was married previously, true, but he got divorced in 1948 and only met Margaret Roberts in 1949. I see no scandal there.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave Weeden

I meant both PM and spouse had been married just once. Divorce used to be frowned on-Princess Margaret wasn’t supposed to marry someone as he was divorced ( turned out full story bit more complicated)Jeremy Corbyn being head Labour Party was a bit unusual as on to his third marriage.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
3 years ago
Reply to  James Rowlands

Well it depends who is influencing. I would imagine Marina to be more competent and wise than Carrie.

SUSAN GRAHAM
SUSAN GRAHAM
3 years ago
Reply to  James Rowlands

All men are influenced by their ‘significant other’ – be it wife or mistress, most are gullible, a prime example currently being a prominent royal – and a woman is often the downfall of many. I suspect that Boris has lost his mojo and is unfortunately influenced to his discredit by his mistress…begging the question – who is running the country – Boris or Carrie?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

An interesting little talk by Isaiah Berlin on what was, broadly. this subject popped up recently on YouTube. Essentially, Berlin was discussing the nature of political genius. His thesis was that it was not those who are equipped with all the facts, or who follow the political ‘science’ who succeed. Instead, and he spoke with particular reference to Bismarck, it was those who are somehow able to synthesise the spirit of the times, to understand what people want and the way in which things are moving. Well, it was more complicated and articulate than that, but it struck me that Johnson seems to embody some of the attributes that Berlin highlighted.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Interesting as Berlin ever was. But if this is so, then such a politician will be determined in character by the “form and pressure of the age”; and where Bismarck drank in the energy and devotion of the nineteenth century, Johnson has wallowed in the syrupy illusions of the twenty-first. Sometimes, therefore, rescue can only come from a figure determined to withstand the wave of current events, an approach utterly alien to the cynical, self-seeking Johnson, who is quite prepared to surf the tsunami even as it destroys all in its path.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Also if Johnson is the ‘spirit of the times’ we are all having a mid-life crisis.

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Lots of people WANTED to die of Covid?
They WANTED their PM to play truant from five COBRA meetings planning Britain’s response to the pandemic which had spread from China to Southern Europe? While he took his second fortnight of holiday in two months, in order to plan how to juggle his pregnant mistress and his cancer-treatment wife?
They WANTED his first private comment on Covid to advisors to be that we should ignore Covid, and his first public comment to be that Brexit Britain would not be deterred from its manifest destiny by “excessive” precautions against Covid, as lesser breeds than the British were doing?

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Or maybe you lead the Gordon Brown fanclub…

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

How about addressing the facts?

Weyland Smith
Weyland Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

“lesser breeds than the British”
Do you have a reference to him saying that?

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  Weyland Smith

It’s not a direct quotation (you are the one who has put it in inverted commas, not me) – but it’s what he clearly said. If you find the speech, you will see that.
And it’s Boris’s failures of intellect, application and self-discipline, which have led to us having the highest Covid death toll in Europe and the highest Covid death toll per million population of any medium/large country (>20m population) in the world. See the Times today, p9, for the figures. If it were Jeremy Corbyn who was responsible for that, rather than an Old Etonian clown, I wonder what Conservatives would be saying.

Tom Fox
Tom Fox
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Another lie. You are a really foul individual.
The UK does not have the highest covid death toll in Europe EXCEPT in the minds of the statistically illiterate or absolute liars such as you. Absolute numbers when comparing populations of different sizes do not convey which nation has the highest death toll. Do we use absolute numbers in comparing death rates between the United States and Switzerland? Of course not. The nations of Europe count covid death rates in very different ways, some like ourselves and the Belgians, over counting by comparison to others such as France and Spain. The ONLY sensible way to comare death rates is to use Age Adjusted Mortality rates averaged over five years as a base line to compare with this year. On that measure Europe has many countries with higher death rates due to covid than we do.

https://www.cebm.net/covid-19/excess-mortality-across-countries-in-2020/

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Fox

So Rupert Murdoch’s Times, with its daily presentation of opinion pieces ranging from Spectator journalists to the hardline Institute of Economic Affairs (no socialists, of course – this is Murdoch, owner of Fox News) is – according to you – daily (page 9 today if you want to check) presenting Covid statistics which unfairly disparage our wonderful and successful right-wing Government, whose election his Sun also laboured so mightily to achieve?
Not very likely, is it?
I agree that statistics can vary a bit, but let’s remember that the 126,000 quoted for the UK, and on which the Times daily tabulation is based, is itself an underestimate compared to the 147,000 UK death certificates which list it as the cause, or one of the causes, of death.

Last edited 3 years ago by Chris C
Peter Kriens
Peter Kriens
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Fox

The site I tend to use is https://Euromomo.eu

Since it started displaying these statistics mor than 3 years ago it is clear from any bias and differences in reporting.

The last two weeks, for the first time since I started watching, the excess deaths went down, mostly in the most heavily affected cohort, the group that is now vaccinated. Really good news.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

You seem fixated on Boris’s faults, but the whole point of the articles is that he does not need to be perfect to be a good PM. Only time will tell us how Boris did overall.

Pauline Ivison
Pauline Ivison
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

Well said, Johnson has no regard for anyone other than himself. As for the ‘people’, he’ll just keep bribing them with public money whilst continuing to do what he does best-lie.

Terence Riordan
Terence Riordan
3 years ago

Boris did get us out of the EU after a fashion from a poor start position left by the appalling TM. If our politicians actually wake from the slumber of letting the EU make all our laws for 42 years and get back to actually doing stuff that works for the UK then Boris has already earned his corn….however imperfectly. I suspect that if he keeps the job we will gradually cut the remaining ties as the EU gets more visibly corrupt and we get used to dealing Worldwide again and EU becomes less relevant commercially and strategically.
If he does push major parts of our appalling Westminster centred establishment out across the country and starts to see that the country’s attitudes are not always the mish mash of rubbish spoken in the cess pit of a capital then we will applaud him. I hope he does stay alive and contentious….and that he gets back to picking a good team and managing them or just ignoring the job and letting them get on with it…like the Vaccination development programme.
There is no evidence that any countries politicians got actions any better or worse than any others (except Brazil and USA) as the numbers don’t compare across borders.
Boris got one thing right….get vaccines asap for that we are thankful.
Now we need to dismantle the Nazi parts of Covid and tell the many sheep in our population who are still stupidly scared to get real and get out there.

Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
3 years ago

Many of the comments eloquently reinforce the compelling question which I took from m the article, who but a somewhat deranged person, would want the job? Even if you were a paragon of virtue the mob would pick you to pieces with their self righteous criticism of your every word and deed and you would be left with bodyguards as companions until your dying day.

Terry Needham
Terry Needham
3 years ago

Fair enough, I won’t bother.

Darren Stephens
Darren Stephens
3 years ago

They may not need to be particularly virtuous, but it helps if they have basic competence, are not demonstrably corrupt, and do not surround themselves with accomplices cut from the same cloth. The present holder of the office really doesn’t score well there.

Anjela Kewell
Anjela Kewell
3 years ago

If you are going to be a lazy leader, you have to have a skill in picking the right team to work for you. I hardly think Johnson has those skills if he is relying on Princess NutNut and the Civil Service as he seems to be doing.

A ridiculous article

simon taylor
simon taylor
3 years ago

Boris is, after Margaret Thatcher, the best PM this country has had in my lifetime. People forget that a large part of his appeal is his ability to infuriate the establishment (of both the left and right).

Tom Fox
Tom Fox
3 years ago
Reply to  simon taylor

Liar!

William Harvey
William Harvey
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Fox

Sir ..it would appear that you have but one eye and through that single optic can see no good

I detect you may be a one eyed and very disgruntled Jezza Corbyn fan.

Corbyn would have been an unparralled disaster and even hard baked Labour voters in the North could see that. Which is why they held their noses and voted tory…many for the first time in their lives.

In the long run the success of the vaccine roll out ( only possible because the Uk isn’t in the EU) will be what Johnson will probably be remembered for along with having the drive to get the UK out of the mess that is the EU.

As for some of you other one eyed comments… I suspect you are too young to remember the appaling mess made by labour and tory govts in cahoots with the unions during the 60s and 70s. 3 day week winter of discontent etc.

It was jointly union intransigence and management incompetence that almost brought UK to its knees.

Sadly I suspect when you read that sentence you will only read the “management incompetence ” part.

Paul Goodman
Paul Goodman
3 years ago
Reply to  William Harvey

Yes when I endured black outs and the 3 day week as a child nobody even mentioned the effect on my mental health of missing school, and most Sunday afternoons were more isolating then the whole of lockdown.

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  William Harvey

I perfectly remember the union intransigence. Thatcher’s reforms reined it in (so that now the pendulum has swung too far the other way – can you accept that?)
I just don’t think destroying much of British industry via sky high interest rates, and the resulting overvalued pound which favoured imports and destroyed exports, was the best way to deal with union intransigence and management incompetence. Especially with the Tory mentality of “we don’t care, we can just carry on with manipulating share portfolios and financial engineering in the Home Counties”.
How about addressing that point? Was it a good thing that monetarism destroyed so much of British industry?

D Ward
D Ward
3 years ago
Reply to  simon taylor

Well he can’t br worse than Bliar/Brown and even Cameroon/May. Those are very low bars though to be fair.

editing to add Major

Last edited 3 years ago by D Ward
J J
J J
3 years ago

Boris is a conservative, of the classical liberal strand, to his core. He is also a high functioning autistic. Such people often appear lazy and bungling on the surface, but are profoundly intelligent underneath. He’s attempted to hide his autism by creating a complex alter ego called ‘Boris’ – a bungling, lovable high class toff. However the stress of the pandemic has thrown him, creating cracks in his alter ego. Nonetheless, he remains something of a political savant.
Politically he had no choice but to implement mass restrictions. Boris tried his best to get around this dilemma through mass testing and vaccination. A strategy he announced at the start of the pandemic and met with derision in most quarters. The process getting there was messy, but we now test and vaccinate more per capita than any other major country in the world. That is the genius of the autistic at work.
Boris Johnson has found himself in the most acute political crisis since the second world war. His options were and are ‘bad’ and ‘worse’. The fact he is surviving, if not winning, an ‘unsurvivable’ political crisis tells you something about the political genius and obsessive determination of the man.
Boris Johnson is not an obvious leader of anything, autistics rarely are. He was a ‘use only in the case of an emergency’ option, chosen to solve the unsolvable Brexit impasse. It turned out the emergency was not Brexit, it was far bigger. I suspect in the fullness of time it will be shown that he was the right man at the right time.
We shall shortly see a rebirth of economic activity and freedom unparalleled in prior decades or even epochs. And it will be Boris Johnson, the autistic political savant, who will instigate this.

Last edited 3 years ago by J J
Martin Adams
Martin Adams
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

Hmmm. I’m no fan of Boris. But there’s plenty of food for thought in your comment. I would be pleased if the Boris-haters who are so numerous in these comments demonstrated the charity and the inclination towards objectivity showed by your analysis. (I raise the issue of Boris-hating in my long comment several hours earlier.) Thank you!

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Martin Adams

That’s very kind of you. We eventually destroy all of our political leaders, as this article suggests. Oddly it was Tony Blair in 2007 who said the intensity of media scrutiny was now so great, that he felt in the future no PM would last more than two terms. Interestingly, since he said that, no PM has survived two terms.
I am actually a long term Labour supporter and switched in the 2019 election to Boris. One reason, among many, was the media’s onslaught against Boris Johnson prior to the election. It was so ridiculously over the top, that it confirmed to me the media were utterly bias and ‘corrupt’ in their attempts to claim political neutrality. Even basic research on the internet would of proven Boris Johnson was not some mad, extreme free market, libertarian racist, as the media claimed.
For gods sake, there are decades worth of youtube videos showing him making speeches all over the place (worth watching if you have never seen them). It’s fairly clear what he is and is not about. I concluded he was exactly what we needed. A classical liberal, a patriot, a conservative and a political realist (realpolitik is his speciality)

Martin Adams
Martin Adams
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

Thank you. The reasons you voted for him and his party are pretty similar to the reasons I did. That said, I’m among the large number of people — socially conservative, but inclined towards classic liberalism (NOT progressivist) in fiscal and related matters — who are not represented by any mainstream party. Added to that, our local conservative MP, George Eustice, is excellent as a constituency MP and pretty good as a minister. It’s the social conservatism that has lost out most; but Boris is still the best bet we have, for all the reasons you have said. Thank you!

Paul Hammond
Paul Hammond
3 years ago
Reply to  J J

I’m sure he’s an interesting psychological study — all prime ministers are — but to claim that Boris Johnson, of all people, is autistic seems like a wild stretch. Unless they have totally changed the meaning of the term since I last looked.

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Hammond

Yes the term has been appropriated by some very evil people and their equally otious advocates. Autism is now routinely rolled out as a defence in law against stabbing, throwing children from art galleries, selling drugs to minors, etc etc

David Collier
David Collier
3 years ago

I love the photo at the top of this article, the young woman with her hand on Boris’ left shoulder looks like she has a nasty smell under her nose that she is doing her best to ignore. Excellent graphic!

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  David Collier

That was probably the last time he combed his hair!

jatoz626
jatoz626
3 years ago

I’m finding it difficult to equate Harold Wilson pretending to smoke a pipe with Boris Johnson betraying Petronella Wyatt with a promise of marriage and then forcing her to abort their child, perhaps Dominic will help me out.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
3 years ago

Why are the words “Johnson” and “success” being used in the same sentence?

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

Because, however much it might pain you, it is sometimes appropriate.

Paul Goodman
Paul Goodman
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

You mean like: Johnsons success in elections?

Jack Walker
Jack Walker
3 years ago

I don’t care what antics our PM got up to when he was younger. Further, I don’t care what he does now providing it’s legal.
I do care that his every action should be for the greater good of the UK and doesn’t show the country in a disreputable light; the jury is still out on this, but time will tell.

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  Jack Walker

The ÂŁ100,000+ for Jennifer Arcuri may turn out to have not even been legal.

J J
J J
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

I agree. She is worth no where near 100K.

Martin Adams
Martin Adams
3 years ago
Reply to  Jack Walker

Well said, Mr Walker.

Vivek Rajkhowa
Vivek Rajkhowa
3 years ago

If only thr jacobites had been better organised. We’d never have had to deal with this crap.

Dave Weeden
Dave Weeden
3 years ago
Reply to  Vivek Rajkhowa

The Bolsheviks were pretty well organised. Khrushchev and Yeltsin would have fitted in perfectly here.

Vivek Rajkhowa
Vivek Rajkhowa
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave Weeden

Indeed, the Jacobites winning would’ve been a boon for us.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago
Reply to  Vivek Rajkhowa

I thought it was the Bonnie Prince’s EU advisors that sais “turn back – we’re doomed I tell ye doomed”

Vivek Rajkhowa
Vivek Rajkhowa
3 years ago

The scots wanted to turn back without English support. Had Charlie avoided that storm abd landed with those guns and men then he’d have won.

Spiro Spero
Spiro Spero
3 years ago

How convenient. How increasingly unherdlike this publication becomes as time move … not!

David Warnes
David Warnes
3 years ago

One of the significant things about Johnson is that he is much more popular in England than in Scotland. Currently he looms large in SNP election literature for that reason. Were the Union to end on his watch, I think he might be remembered rather as we remember Lord North. I am sure that historians will conclude that he acted entirely from self-interest but that, in doing so, he outflanked Farage & changed the nature of the Conservative Party. I save my admiration for the PMs who did what they saw as the right thing at the cost of splitting their parties – notably Peel & Gladstone.

Lindsay Gatward
Lindsay Gatward
3 years ago
Reply to  David Warnes

Surely more like Farage out-everything’d the Conservatives? – The entire establishment are Remainers – They only promised the Referendum to see off Farage – They only kept that promise because they were 1000% sure they would defeat Farage – PROJECT FEAR launched when they realised Farage might win spectacularly backfired big time (but was good practice for the current ‘COVID FEAR’) – Boris’ opportunistic backing of Leave would have been a cert for PM but for backstabber extraordinaire Gove – Farage’s Brexit party just 6 weeks old humiliated Theresa elevating Boris once again – Farage withdrawing from GE gifted Boris the 80 seat majority – Boris owes it all to Farage which is another reason why the establishment hate Farage while we the people are raising him to mythical status – (When this Remain media generation are gone so many movies will be made about Brexit because it has everything, masses of ironies, many cliff hangers, huge character on both sides, central underdog hero figure, and the best ingredient of all the people defeating their masters – Directors will love it and actors clamour to be in an everlasting classic story that really happened).

Last edited 3 years ago by Lindsay Gatward
Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
3 years ago

I believe Her Majesty remarked to Boris when he went for audience to ‘kiss hands’ “I can’t understand why anyone would want the job”. Quite so Ma’am.

Karen Jemmett
Karen Jemmett
3 years ago

Precisely, I drew that conclusion long ago. Best be a self-serving writer of sorts, then?

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago

“…as Walpole and Johnson would be delighted to agree, is that few successful Prime Minsters have been paragons of virtue. There’s always Gladstone…”. That’s an ambitious sweeping statement. Pitt; Wellington; Salisbury; Chamberlain (arguably, I agree, but it was only WW2 did for him; Churchill; Thatcher; Blair?
Prime Ministers need drive, inspiration, perspiration, a few loyal colleagues, and a lot of luck. The state of the trouser play is almost irrelevant

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

I missed out Peel; a man who was utterly right even if he lost office for being so

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

What about Clement Attlee?
He did more to revolutionise this country than anyone else, bar perhaps his likewise Putney born predecessor Thomas Cromwell.
Decisiveness not virtuousness is what is required in a PM. Clement Attlee takes an alpha plus in that department whilst sadly Boris scores gamma minus for his blatant indecisiveness.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago

Attlee was a small, evil quisling who wanted us to be ruled by the USSR, and sold them the design of our newest jet engines to assist them to do so. These engines found their way into their MiGs which killed our people in Korea.
A few years ago I was contemplating doing a “toilet tour” of the UK in which I intended to make a toilet on the graves of Labour figures. Attlee is rescued only by being buried in Westminster Abbey, but his dad’s a legitimate target and he’s in Putney Vale Cemetery.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Attlee and Churchill were both the same height
5’6”, although Churchill, as you may know was somewhat heavier.
Attlee was no Communist or Quisling as you call him, unlike a number of other members of the Labour Party at that time.

The Rolls Royce Nene engine affair has been grossly exaggerated. In particular the Meteor was a ‘flying brick’ in comparison to the MiG-15, which was aerodynamically far superior.

Your ‘lavatory tour’ should of taken you to Cornwall, where Attlee’s elder brother Tom is buried. He was a CO during the Great War and a far more apposite ‘target’ than his blameless father in Putney Vale.

.

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Attlee was a small, evil quisling who wanted us to be ruled by the USSR”
He, via his Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin was instrumental in setting up NATO. A bit different from your claim, surely?
So even by the standards of Unherd’s deranged right wingers, you take the biscuit.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago

Well, Clem was certainly decisive. Spending the public’s money, wrecking the economy, continuing rationing and controls years after needed. Took us half a century to repair the results of his decisiveness

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Attlee put the country back on its feet and created the NHS. That’s why, after five years under enormously difficult post-war circumstances, he still won a majority (in 1950).

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Come off it, when Clem took over UKplc was bankrupt, a miserable pauper begging for US largesse which ‘we’ duly received thanks to Clem’s machinations.

True a lot was squandered on utopian dreams, but we at least got the sainted NHS and the Atomic Bomb.

He also managed to dump that basket case India, and rid ourselves of that ‘putrefying Albatross’ known as Palestine.

Rationing would continue under the Conservatives until 1956, and they also presided some notable fiascos in the Aerospace world, notably, the Brabazon, the Princess Flying Boats and the Comet, & for the Railways, the lunatic 1955 Modernisation Plan, and I could go on.

Fintan Power
Fintan Power
3 years ago

I am always amazed at how quickly commentators go off the point of what the writer has to say and how quickly it becomes a squabble between people defending their own patches.

Michael Whittock
Michael Whittock
3 years ago
Reply to  Fintan Power

Agreed

Terry M
Terry M
3 years ago

Yes: Trump.

Angus J
Angus J
3 years ago

The most amazing thing about the picture at the head of this article is that Boris appears to have combed his hair. I wonder when he gave up doing that?

Clay Trowbridge
Clay Trowbridge
3 years ago

Before one in the US criticizes the current PM, let us think of our president. BI or JB? However, that misses a point.
For a long time, but most notably since the assassination of President Kennedy, administrations here have generally been lower tier puppets for the wizards behind the curtain. Even President Carter, showing great promise, regretfully told evangelicals that he could not select his own cabinet, yet he did have to accept every derogatory opinion held about “his” administration.
Then, the Bush-Reagan administration and others following (with but one exception), leading our nation downhill with ever greater speed. Did LBJ create the Gulf of Tonkin, RR the export of our manufacturing wealth and power, BHO (born in Mombasa, British East Africa), our surrender to the NWO? No, the descent is managed by the wizards. For a hint, recall or look up WJC passing his oral exams at a Bilderberg Group meeting and by David Rockefeller saying, “Congratulations, Mr President.”

Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
3 years ago

With Brexit in the bag and C19 in check, Boris needs vision and values to unite the nation. He may not embody them, but he needs to promote them.

Michael Whittock
Michael Whittock
3 years ago

A well written, very interesting article and also rather depressing. But then human nature ,unredeemed, is pretty depressing so we get the prime ministers we deserve.

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago

I’ve always preferred Bolingbroke and the Jacobites to the usurpers, Walpole and his Whigs. But Sandbrook’s does make a strong case for anarchism.

Chris Eaton
Chris Eaton
3 years ago

I find it somewhat amusing that your own experiment in ‘democracy’ is only a few years longer than ours. Given that you had such a head start…I wonder why you didn’t do better. Oh well, I am glad you didn’t.

William Blake
William Blake
3 years ago

A good article Dominic. I suspect most of your observations ring true for most people. They certainly make good sense to me. Boris Johnson is undoubtedly no different from the majority you describe. But perhaps he has been dealt a particularly unusual and bad card in the form of the present pandemic, and should probably expect to be kicked out of office at the next GE for his poor judgement. We shall see.

Victor Newman
Victor Newman
3 years ago

Journalists often tell us more about themselves than their subject.
I can remember Boris in a Parliament with a speaker who had usurped the role of head of state and invented new rules to suit his backers, when the authors of the surrender bill had it dictated to them in German in the French embassy to hog-tie our executive; and the supreme court invented a law to punish the government retrospectively.
He saw it through, bullied the liars into committing to a General Election which turned out to be a summary suicide. . He had the balls to face an organised oligarchy across 3 parties that thought Parliament was not under the sovereignty of the people, that democracy could be dismissed by use of an invented term: populism. He faced them and their MSM down, and survived CV19 to ensure we had the Vaccine Task Force that delivered 8 vaccines, and built the new vaccine factory outside Oxford.
His authorship of a book on Churchill meant he recognised the nature of ideological surrender that we were faced with in a class that would have surrendered to the Nazis in 1940..

Last edited 3 years ago by Victor Newman
Francis Neary
Francis Neary
3 years ago

The inaccurate historical precis sadly bespoils any benefit/value of the piece.

Other than in the realm of “common usage”, or (as in the case of “irregardless”) the “if we use it often enough, even with little regard to genuine facts, then it WILL BECOME A FACT”,

-A)constitutionally/legally-speaking there is no title of “prime minister” in the UK;

-B)no institution by the name of “Office of the Prime Minister of the UK” exists in the UK (obviously there is a post/role/function which has been commonly referred to as “Prime Minister” and obviously this role/function has a physical office and administrative functions….unlike, for example, the USA, which has a constitutionally defined institution (The Office of POTUS);

-C)the function/role referred to as “UK Prime Minister”, despite never having been officially created, does come into being as a “title of convention” and, arguably, the first individual to be officially referred to as “Prime Minister” (and refer to HIMSELF as such) was possibly Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (in office 1905-8);

-D)as the title has no constitutional/legal foundation and is merely a title derived from convention, it MIGHT be more accurate to refrain from using capital letters and use all lower-case letters(in other words: CORRECT: “prime minister”; INCORRECT: “Prime Minister”);

-E)other than specific powers, functions, authorities, and practices attributed to the role (sometimes by virtue of the title of “First Lord of the Treasury”), then the reluctance to give legal definition to the role of prime minister was designed to prevent imbalances (between Parliament, the Crown or the executive) or abuses of power and make it “primus inter pares” (or the first among equals) in the Cabinet and the head of government in the United Kingdom.

Which means that it’s not very important what the actual title is, or, whether the individual is a charlatan or not; the important conditions for qualifying for this position are 1. WHEN HE (stats) left PUBLIC SCHOOL (preferably Eton)? AND 2. TO WHAT DEGREE HE/THE PARTY STRATEGISED HIMSELF INTO “No 10” (not meriting it!) BY ENGINEERING A BRITISH ELECTORATE SO GULLIBLE/ILL-INFORMED/DISTRACTED THAT IT IS OCCASIONALLY DIFFICULT TO DISTINGUISH THEM FROM AMERICANS !
Because, in British history, this is a pattern which occurs more often than expected!

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Francis Neary

the SHOUTING and exclamation marks probably make your point really persuasive but I couldn’t be bothered to read it.

Ray Thomson
Ray Thomson
3 years ago

Another unfunny pean to the virtues of masculinist unwokeness, with the obligatory nod to phallic nanny Thatcher. And yet nothing can quite disguise the excesses of unmitigated cruelty and cheap, downright nastiness aimed directly at the less-fortunate, exuding from the Johnson administration like a bad stink. And there’s worse to come.

Paul Goodman
Paul Goodman
3 years ago
Reply to  Ray Thomson

The return of Corbyn?

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago

Do the “best leaders” also have the highest death toll in Europe, and the highest death toll per million population of any country of 20m+ population in the world?
And cronies enriching themselves with fast-tracked contracts?

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

And cronies enriching themselves with fast-tracked contracts?
For a second there, I thought the article was about the US Congress.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

C’mon Chris, try to get one fact correct! No score there

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Figures from the Times, Saturday, page 10.
Or do you have some Trump-style “alternative facts” to offer?

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

The fact they were4 wrong in the Times does not make them right if you repeat them. No doubt you can find something that makes your case – maybe “highest death toll in a country speaking English with a capital beginning with L and drives on the left?”

Chris C
Chris C
3 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

You assert that the statistics in Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing Times are wrong and are making the Tories look bad (why would Murdoch do that?), but you don’t offer any of your own. Just assertion that facts you don’t like are wrong.
As with your assertion above that Clement Attlee “wrecked the economy”, which any historically-aware person knows is nonsense, you seem to be living in an evidence-free mindset. So common for right-wingers in the age of Trump.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

Unreasonable to expect that of the left. The left has its hate and that’s all it needs.

Paul Goodman
Paul Goodman
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris C

How many labour party members arrested in Liverpool and for what?